Life Expectancy in Burundi
Burundi is a small, landlocked country situated in the heart of Sub-Saharan Africa and bordered by Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is currently listed at number 185 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI), which coincides with its status as one of the poorest countries in the world. HDI is determined by a variety of factors, including the average lifespan of a country’s inhabitants. Life expectancy can be a telling indicator of the social, economic and institutional challenges a country might be facing.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Burundi

  1. It’s relatively low—The CIA estimates the overall life expectancy in Burundi at about 61.4 years of age, while the U.N. Development Programme’s estimate is slightly lower at 57.6 years. Either way, the average life expectancy in Burundi is younger than the average age of retirement in the United States.
  2. Food insecurity is an issue—Between July and September 2018, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) determined that at least 1.4 million Burundians were living in the Crisis and Emergency phases of food insecurity. For many, these classifications translate into a lack of proper nutrition that can seriously impact health. Some measures are being taken to address this issue—for example, last year USAID’s Food for Peace initiative contributed $30 million in food resources to Burundians and Congolese refugees—but putting a greater emphasis on the introduction of innovative irrigation practices could have a more lasting impact.
  3. Childhood malnutrition has long-term effects—Perhaps the most visible effect of food insecurity in Burundi is malnutrition among young children. According to USAID, 56 percent of Burundian children under 5 experience stunted development and 29 percent are underweight. Underdevelopment from malnutrition can have lasting effects on both overall health and longevity, potentially resulting in shorter life expectancy.
  4. The population is outgrowing its resources—About 20 percent of Burundi’s population of 11 million people consists of children below the age of 5. This indicates a massive dependent population and a high potential for growth—in fact, the population is expected to double by 2050. In a country already struggling to support its inhabitants, rapid growth will mean spreading its resources even thinner and exacerbating issues like food insecurity. This trend, therefore, can indirectly impact life expectancy in Burundi on a variety of levels.
  5. There is a lack of reproductive health services—As evidenced by the above point, Burundi has one of the highest birth rates in the world at an average of 5.93 children per woman. According to the U.N.’s Human Development Report, 30 percent of Burundian women had an unmet need for family planning, and the prevalence of contraceptives (any method) among women of reproductive age was only 28.5 percent. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is taking some action to address the lack of reproductive health services. In 2018, UNFPA supported the development of 10 new health facilities providing emergency obstetric care. However, Burundi still lacks a comprehensive family planning program.
  6. Most of the population lives in poverty—With a GNI per capita of $702 per year, the majority of Burundi’s population lives in some degree of poverty. 90 percent of the employed population lives on less than $3.10/day, making it extremely difficult for working men and women to support their families and meet all of their needs. While the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has been instrumental in implementing poverty reduction strategies in rural areas, much of the population continues to suffer from poverty on some level.
  7. HIV/AIDS reduction is still in progress—In 2016, there were 2,200 new HIV infections in Burundi, making the total number of citizens living with the disease about 84,000. The most high-risk groups continue to be sex workers and men who have sex with other men, with an HIV prevalence of 21.3 percent and 4.8 percent respectively. Between 2008 and 2011, the World Bank implemented the Second Multisectoral HIV/AIDS Project to capitalize on previous HIV reduction efforts; the project resulted in increased condom use and more readily available antiretroviral therapy. Because of such initiatives, HIV infections have decreased by 54 percent and AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 49 percent since 2010.
  8. Other major infectious diseases exist—Due to a tropical climate and a lack of immunizations, illnesses like malaria, typhoid fever, measles and hepatitis A continue to pose a problem for Burundians. These conditions, coupled with a physician density of only 0.05 physicians/1000 people, put the population at risk for premature death and can seriously impact life expectancy in Burundi.
  9. Environmental hazards hinder development—Burundi’s extreme climate puts it at risk for natural disasters like floods, droughts and landslides. Such hazards damage infrastructure, displace people from their homes and contribute to the issues of food insecurity and water scarcity during certain months of the year.
  10. It’s ultimately increasing—As a result of some of the initiatives discussed above, life expectancy in Burundi has increased from 48.1 years in 1990 to about 58 years in 2017. While this number is still significantly lower than that of countries like the United States, there has been a definite upward trend.

In conclusion, there are a variety of factors that contribute to a relatively low life expectancy in Burundi. By continuing to provide assistance to relief programs, it is likely that the average life expectancy will continue to rise.

– Morgan Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Overpopulation in India

According to recent studies, India is set to surpass China as the world’s most populous nation by as early as 2024. In a country where 25 percent of the population is already living on less than $2 a day, many fear the growing population will only make the poverty situation worse.

Although rapid population growth does not necessarily cause poverty, there is a clear connection between high fertility rates and poverty. In developing countries with high fertility rates, life expectancy and per capita income (two important indicators of well being) typically remain low.

The good news is that fertility rates in India have dropped significantly as of late, down to 2.2 births per woman. Yet the population is still growing at the world’s fastest rate at nearly 15 million people per year. Whatever measures are taken to combat overpopulation in India, it remains clear that overpopulation is a pressing issue with far-reaching implications on the environment, poverty and health. The following are 10 facts regarding overpopulation in India.

10 Facts About Overpopulation in India

  1. According to U.N. estimates, India’s current population of 1.32 billion is projected to reach 1.8 billion by 2050.
  2. Indians account for nearly one-sixth of the global population and one in three people living in global poverty, according to statistics from Yale University.
  3. The fertility rate of Indian women has more than halved over the last 40 years, down to 2.2 births per woman. Falling fertility rates are important in that they typically correspond with rising life expectancy and quality of life.
  4. Around 31 percent of Indians currently live in urban areas, but that number is projected to climb to near 50 percent (830 million people) by 2050.
  5. Currently, India is home to five megacities; this number is slated to increase to seven by 2030. A megacity is a city of more than 10 million people.
  6. Delhi is projected to remain the second most populous city in the world in 2030, adding 9.6 million inhabitants in that time.
  7. While only 300,000 men agreed to vasectomies in 2008-09, more than 5.5 million women agreed to use an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCDs) to avoid pregnancy. These procedures are sponsored by the government to promote population control.
  8. The number of married women who regularly use contraceptives has gone up from 13 percent in 1970 to 48 percent in 2009.
  9. Indians have added almost a decade to their life expectancy in the past 25 years, with average life expectancy up to 69 years.
  10. India registered 90,000 fewer infant deaths in 2016 as compared to 2015.

Although the statistics can appear staggering, there is still reason to be optimistic. In India, trends in women’s education, fertility rates and quality of life have all shown improvements in recent history. This is important since improvements in these areas all correspond to decreasing poverty and population levels.

Furthermore, since countries with higher levels of income, education and access to health care typically have lower birth rates, experts are beginning to urge the government to focus on the development of these areas. Others are advocating for a government enforced family planning strategy, much like China’s one-child policy.

There is certainly overpopulation in India, but with awareness of the issue and sustained efforts to combat it, both poverty and population can be brought under control.

– Taylor Pace
Photo: Flickr

vaginal_ringThe World Health Organization has included the progesterone contraceptive vaginal ring (CVR) on its 2015 Essential Medicines List.

Developed by the Population Council, this contraception method is unique because it is safe and effective for lactating women after they have given birth. It can be used as early as four weeks after childbirth for up to one year in order to space out potential future births.

Birth spacing is important for the health of mother and child. Maternal death and other health complications are more likely to arise with short intervals between births. In addition, family planning can help parents to plan finances related to family expansion. Family planning is critical to poverty reduction. When families do not have the knowledge or ability to space births, particularly in developing countries, they may also lack the resources to support these children.

The vaginal ring is 98.5 percent effective in preventing pregnancy with proper use. The ring can be inserted and removed by the mother. This translates to less doctor visits, which are known to strain family resources, such as time and money, in developing countries.

The ring releases progesterone, but does not interfere with breast milk production. In this way, it is unlike oral contraceptives, which contain estrogen and cannot be used by lactating women.

This method is currently used in Bolivia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, and Peru. Currently, studies in India and Sub-Saharan Africa are underway in order to determine if it could be effective in these regions as well.

The inclusion of this method on the list from the World Health Organization’s list suggests that it is likely to be more accessible to communities in the near future. The CVR is effective, safe, and inexpensive. Medical services can be difficult to reach in developing countries, but the CVR places very few demands on doctors.

The Population Council is currently developing another vaginal ring that will not have to be replaced every 3 months. It would last for one year. This would make this contraceptive method even more appropriate for the developing world.

In the future, we may even see vaginal rings that can protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, in addition to its contraceptive function. This exciting new technology has the potential to address many of the global health problems our world faces today.

Iliana Lang

Sources: WHO, Population Council, Impatient Optimists
Photo: Impatient Optimists

remote control contraceptive
In less than four years, women could be receiving a remote control contraceptive. The implanted microchip provides a reliable dose of hormones every day for 16 years, which could make family planning and contraception much easier for women in the developing world.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-backed project is based off of research done in the 1990s by Professor Robert Langer of MIT. Langer leased his technology to MicroCHIPS, a company currently developing implants to release osteoporosis treatments into the body over regular intervals.

The microchip, roughly the size of a Scrabble tile at 20mm x 20mm x 7mm, has wells filled with the hormone levonorgestrel. When activated, a small electric charge triggers every day, melting the covering of the wells and releasing 30 micrograms of levonorgestrel into the body. The wells are covered with a mixture of titanium and platinum, which causes no harm to the body when melted.

The chip can be implanted in the abdomen, upper arm or buttocks. The process to inject the contraceptive is fairly simple, taking less than 30 minutes and using a local anesthetic.

Since many women may want to take a break from the birth control before the end of 16 years, the remote control allows them to switch their treatment on and off themselves. This puts power in the hands of women. There are security issues, such as the possibility for hacking, which could be a major problem if women do not realize their dosing has been tampered with. MicroCHIPS has promised that the control must be used right next to the skin, so no one can interfere with a women’s contraception without her knowledge.

Another issue is that injectable contraceptives do not protect against STDs, and some have even been shown to increase the chance of contracting HIV. Also, becoming fertile again after using hormones can take a while. These issues have not been addressed by the company.

This is not the first injectable contraceptive, but it lasts the longest. The most durable contraceptive on the market right now lasts only five years. This microchip could simplify women’s lives all across the developing world. Injectable contraceptives are already popular in these countries, so making the switch would be easy to do.

Burkina Faso will soon implement the contraceptive Sayana Press, as will Niger, Senegal and Uganda. Sayana Press only lasts three months, and while the countries will provide delivery services for women who cannot come to hospitals or clinics every few months, it is still difficult to reach every woman in need of an injection. Some women may also forget to get a new injection.

South Africa currently has a system for a three-year contraceptive. The device is similar, except it cannot be remotely controlled and it must be replaced sooner. It is a Silicone, matchstick-sized implant made by Merck and marketed as Implanon. The Stanger Hospital in South Africa actually ran out of the implants and is struggling to provide enough for the women who want the contraception.

There is a large desire for this kind of contraceptive in the developing world, and a controllable device could be the key to making family planning easier for women.

There are also further applications for implantable drug dispensers beyond female contraception. The technology could be applied to other treatments, like MicroCHIPS’ work with osteoporosis treatment. If trials prove successful, it is possible that many other drugs could be put in the wells and released periodically.

The contraceptive will be submitted for testing in 2015, and by 2018 the microchips could be on the market. The claim is that they will be “competitively priced,” making the technology a real possibility for women around the world to have a worry-free method of birth control.

– Monica Roth

Sources: Elite Daily, Extreme Tech, The Guardian, CNet, Africa Science News, Daily Maverick, MicroCHIPS
Photo: The Telegraph

As the rest of the world begins to tackle the growing population problem and the threat humans have to the environment, Iran pushes forward with a goal in mind to increase the country’s population.

Hovering around 77 million citizens, Iran is no small country. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently announced on his website that he wishes to “strengthen national identity” with this proposed Iranian population increase.

He also blamed Western culture for the rise in contraception usage and stated that the country should avoid these “undesirable aspects.”

The inherent expectation to come of this campaign is the reduction in access to contraceptive health, damaging the future of women’s rights as well as public health in Iran. Contraception was only introduced to Iran in the 1980s, and its likely disappearance will surely not be taken lightly. Not only will the population increase with no access to contraceptives, but so will the rates of sexually transmitted diseases. Contraceptives have long held more function than simply birth control.

Groups such as the AIDS Research Center at Tehran University have recognized the dangerous path this campaign is heading toward. Without complete access to contraception, educators will not be able to teach community members ways to practice safe sex and prevent the spread of AIDS.

This population policy does not address the needs of the modern Iranian citizen as represented in the reformist group. Those in poverty who struggle to support a small family will face great hardships if they have restricted control over the size of their family.

Iranian reformists are concerned with the future of the country under this new ruling due to its potential impact on women’s equality.

Many believe Iran is taking steps backward with this course of action, shying away from progressive women’s rights. Women’s rights in Iran have seen dismal support and this does little to eradicate that.

Since 1986, the population of Iran has fallen about 2 percent, which may play a part in the government’s decision to incite this new ruling for Iranian population increase. However, according to the World Population Review, Iran’s population is already on the road to rapid increase, with a majority of the population being held in the younger generations and immigrants from surrounding countries. It’s possible that with this new decree, the population will shoot up at alarming rates and threaten the stability of the country.

-Elena Lopez

Sources: Reuters, NY Times World Population Review, Khamenei
Photo: LA Times

The United Nations’ recent session on forced marriage raised an issue many attendees called “unacceptable.” Arranged marriages are a cultural tradition in many countries; however, they often lead to “child brides” dropping out of school at the orders of their husbands and pregnancy complications for young girls.

Pregnancy complications commonly occur for young women under the age of 15. The risk of dying during childbirth is five times more likely to happen than for women who are in their 20s. Women under the age of 18 are also at a higher risk of dying during the first year of their child’s life. Some may be surprised to learn that childbirth, not disease, is the leading cause of death for girls between 15 and 18 years old.

Poverty plays a crucial role in forced marriages as well. A study by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s office found that impoverished girls are two times more likely to marry before they are 18. Because the arranged marriages of young girls is a tradition in some countries, Baird says he has been discouraged from publicly criticizing it at times. This line of thinking, Baird explains, has to stop.

Among the riveting anecdotes about girls being forced into wedding older men included the story of how one young girl witnessed the forced marriage of one of her friends to a 40-year-old man who forbade her from attending school. Another friend of the girl was married at a young age and beaten by her husband after giving birth to a girl instead of a boy.

Baird is working with international organizations to make forced marriages for girls a thing of the past. He is adamant that “in a generation, we can end this practice.”
Baird and his supporters are combining their efforts with those of the United Nations and its global goals for 2015, which include universal access to contraceptives as well as improved newborn and maternal health.

– Mary Penn

Sources: CBC News, Too Young To Wed
Photo: Living With Libby

There are currently 222 million women around the world that lack access to contraception. The Global Poverty Project and Women Deliver have joined forces to create a new family planning initiative called It Takes Two to change that. The program seeks to increase the availability of family planning services around the world. Coming to fruition after last year’s Summit on Family Planning in London (which pledged $2.6 billion to help solve the family planning deficiencies in 120 developing countries) and the recent Women Deliver Global Conference in Malaysia, It Takes Two will work primarily by rewarding activism and advocacy.

Participants, through the Global Poverty Project’s mobile platform, will be able to win free contraception, and even design their own condom wrappers. According to Jill Sheffield, the founder and current president of Women Deliver, the It Takes Two program’s main goal is to inspire men and women to demand more access to family planning from their governments.

Though spear-headed by Women Deliver and the Global Poverty Project, other organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, the United Nations Population Fund, and many more are working together to support the program. The initiative is planned to take three years and is now available in the United States and Uganda.

The organization has a well-known ally in this effort. Ambassador to the program and Victoria’s Secret supermodel Erin Heatherton has said that the global lack of contraception is “one of the world’s most pressing issues.” Heatherton has also been a Victoria’s Secret Angel since 2008 and is an advocate who supports that family planning is pertinent to both men and women worldwide, going on to say that “Everyone should have the option to plan a family, and their choices shouldn’t be limited because of their socio-economic level or country of residence.”

– Samantha Mauney
Source: Artist Direct, Sun Times
Photo: Retro Fashion

Family Planning & Women Deliver Conference

Among the many issues discussed at the 2013 Women Deliver conference, women’s ability to choose the size of their families was the main topic. Speakers in the conference praised improvements in women’s access to contraceptives in poor countries and made plans on how to continue this success.

Last year at the London Summit on Family Planning, world leaders pledged to contribute $2.6 billion to help 120 million women in developing countries with health services and contraceptives by 2020. The Women Deliver 2013 conference discussed how to utilize these funds so that it benefits women who need access to such services.

Melinda Gates, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, supported the plans made at the conference by stating, “Putting women at the center of development and delivering solutions that meet their needs will result in huge improvements in health, prosperity and quality of life.”

Attendees of the conference heard testimonials from numerous third would countries successful experiences with family planning services. Representatives from Senegal, the Philippines, the Women Deliver Zambia, Indonesia and Malawi spoke about how they have made improvements in women’s health rights and access to contraceptives.

Given the effectiveness and low-cost of contraceptives, advocates for women’s health hope to encourage other developing countries to follow the example of their peers and introduce women’s health policies. Speakers also stressed a need to sustain these outlooks on family planning and introduce the concept to a broader audience.

When women have access to contraceptives and other health services, their economic and social situation will also improve. As part of the effort to combat global poverty and promote gender equality, family planning is an issue that should be center stage in developing countries.

– Mary Penn

Source: All Africa
Photo: UN Foundation

Trading Superbowl Snacks for Reproductive Care

Certain international organizations with an eye on global health claim that if the United States’ contributed its ‘fair share’ to global family planning aid, it would cost little more than one bag of chips per person per year.

Right now, there are 222 million women across the globe reporting unmet reproductive health needs, most of which are concentrated in the developing world. The sum of the money required to give all of these women access to reproductive health care, such as contraceptives, prenatal and maternity care and vaccines, is equivalent to what Americans spend on Superbowl snacks each year.

How does this work? PAI maintains that it would cost the U.S. one billion dollars to commit its share towards responding to the unmet global health needs. Meeting this goal would cost the average U.S. taxpayer around 3 dollars per year, or less than one cent per day.

Population Action International (PAI) is an organization that advocates for increased universal access to contraception in order to improve the health and quality of life of women and families. PAI argues that the United States must play a key role in shaping the future of global reproductive care if the movement is to succeed.

PAI instructs that spending merely one dollar on reproductive health benefits is an investment that will have positive spill-over effects that will benefit the women in developing countries who receive the aid as well as the entire global community in the long run. Spending a dollar on global reproductive health can consequently save four dollars in other sectors like health care, education, and sanitation.

By trading honey-roasted peanuts for prenatal care, the United States can be saving money as it saves lives.

The next time you reach for the family-size bag of tortilla chips in your grocery store, think of how those three dollars could be spent otherwise: to change a woman’s life, provide a child’s future, or give a country hope.

– Alexandra Bruschi

Source: Population Action International Policymic